What is this “Level 0” thing? (Part 2): Knowledge, Self-Analysis and Feedback

Tools of the Trade (Part 2)

A Vision From Down Under
By Michael Poole

In my last blog, I mentioned a major client who is ‘shifting to the left’ and implementing ‘Level 0’ methods.

For those who missed my last blog, in short, ‘Level 0’ is the process of enabling users to resolve their own incidents and requests.

Obviously, one way of implementing ‘Level 0’ is to shut off the phone lines and email addresses of the Help Desk. A very effective way of getting users involved in the process, but not one I would recommend to anyone wanting a long future in an organisation. Of course, sometimes we implement this method by under-resourcing our support teams – but that is the subject for another blog.

To implement ‘Level 0’, users have to have the information available to them to resolve issues as they arise. So how do we give these to them.

There are a number of tools available.

The Knowledge

It has been famed around the world that London cabbies spend years “doing the knowledge” — learning every street, lane, theatre, hospital and pub in London — before they can sit for the exam to obtain a cab licence. Do we need to ensure that before any person joins the organisation they have an intimate knowledge of computer hardware, software, networking etc.?

No, because now, they can be like today’s Sydney cabbies who avoid “the knowledge” by having a SatNav or GPS system in the cab. Our users’ SatNav can be a Knowledge Base.

The move to implementing “KCS” or Knowledge Centred Support has been going for a number of years, but for many organisations, this has been limited to building knowledge bases directed at and only available to the support team — not the user. With the development of Web 2.0+, users are becoming more accustomed to “googling” for solutions and answers and also using self-help resources that are a part of the major social media sites. I admit, in doing these blogs, I have often consulted the blog site’s help pages and Support Forums.

So KCS is one of the tools that can be deployed as part of the “shift to the left.” But to do this, we have to make sure that we develop our KCS articles, not for computer engineers, or if we are deploying across an enterprise , HR experts or accountants etc, but for the average user and common issues.

Self-analysis

No, I’m not becoming Tony Robbins — all “SHAMish” (Self Help and Actualisation Movement) — perish the thought — or bringing Freud onto the Help Desk — even though at times he might be useful in dealing with users, but more IKEA!

The results of some IKEA assembly projects might belie the concept — but I assume that they have more successes than failures through the step-by-step self-assembly process.

A few — well maybe many — years ago, I was involved in a project that required me to have what is called an “Assumed Rank” in the Australian Armed Services. I made Colonel for a month — the duration of the contract — but thankfully did not have to do the physical, wear a drab khaki uniform, bear arms or be saluted. But I did get into the Officers’ Mess and people had to answer my questions in a respectful way, but that is past. What I did get to find out was how the most complex maintenance and repair processes for a fighter jet could be broken down into simple steps and documented so that even I could have replaced, as an instance, the wiring loom on an F-111 or the laser-guidance system. The “repair manual” — and it was all hard-copy — was contained in a room-full of filing cabinets and needed a librarian to keep it in order and up-to-date. This of course was an extension of the production line methodology introduced by Henry Ford at his eponymous company to make the most complex consumer engineering  product of the day — the motor car — with relatively unskilled workers. Other car makers of the time were using skilled engineers and coach-makers to make one car at a time.

As the makers of the F-111 and Henry Ford knew, every process can be broken down to simple steps and delivered in an appropriate way to produce a complex result. For Ford this was a car; for General Dynamics it was the F-111 repair manual; for us this can be a fault-finding and resolution process.

In fact for the client mentioned above, we implemented such a system — a fault-finding process that enables staff with little or no technical knowledge to analyse and, in over 30% of cases, resolve issues with lap-tops ranging from OS to wireless network issues through a series of simple steps that relied on the answers to a number of questions and test activities that they could understand and carry out.

So another tool in the “Level 0” process, is intelligent and responsive self-analysis and resolution tools. What is sometimes called an “expert system.”

Information, Contribution, Monitoring & Feedback

Implementing “Level 0” also requires openness of information and a positive response to user feedback.

Users should be given every opportunity to be a part of the process.

Where KCS is implemented, users should be able to rate and suggest improvements to KCS articles and guides and also author and submit new KCS articles. As well as providing another source of input into the KCS system, users will develop a group ownership of the KCS system and its acceptance will be more easily gained.

This is also true of any self-analysis and resolution process. A network engineer may be able to define the step-by-step process for resetting a head-end switch, but it may take some input from an end-user to enunciate the process in easily understood vocabulary or point out areas that need better definition.

Users must also be contribute to the areas that need to be covered in the KCS or self-service system. What the experts think are trivial matters, may be a source of confusion to users.

Access to monitoring information in a easily understandable format can reduce calls on the Service Desk. If users know that a system is down for maintenance then they have no need to log a call.

And of course feedback to users is essential when they make a contribution or highlight an area that needs better coverage.

In part 3, I will look at ways to integrate these tools into web-based portals that can be deployed to users.

 

 

 

 

The ABCs of Request Management

By Nancy Nafziger

So what exactly is Service Request Management? According to Wikipedia, service request management, a key component of an actionable service catalog is the underlying workflow and processes that enable an IT procurement or service request to be reliably submitted, routed, approved, monitored, and delivered. Service Request Management is the process of managing a service request through its lifecycle from submission through delivery and follow up.

Request Management DiagramWhat’s the core reason for Request Management? In a nutshell, Request Management empowers organizations to standardize and automate service delivery management processes in order to increase productivity, improve response time, cut costs, and deliver superior business performance.

What does a Request Management solution actually do? It automates the processing and approval tasks for business service provisioning. Often, organizations associate Request Management with IT departments only. However, this is not the case—it can be used beyond IT. It is an enterprise-wide solution. Multiple departments have Request Management needs.

For example, what large organization doesn’t have HR onboarding process needs? Request Management enables HR departments to control request approvals and implement workflows that automatically process onboarding requests. It also provides visibility for tracking purposes, which is critical to HR departments.

What Request Management features are important to consider when looking for an enterprise solution?

Here are some of the key considerations to mull over when selecting a Request Management solution.

Select a Request Management technology that is:

  • Agile
  • Configurable
  • Integrates with your existing applications
  • Minimizes risk
  • Scalable
  • Self-provisioning
  • Includes a workflow automation engine that enables complete workflow control

If you are looking for a Request Management application, a good solution to take a look at is Kinetic Request bundled with Kinetic Task.

Hopefully, this gives you a few things to think about when considering a Request Management solution for the enterprise. I’ll continue to dive deeper in my next blog.

Service Providers—Configure Your Service Processes for Superior Business Value

By Brett Norgaard

Over the past year, my blogging has centered on how service providers (internal, shared service, or outsourcers/managed service providers) can save money, reduce risk, innovate, accelerate time to value, enhance customer satisfaction and increase productivity in their operations. How can this be accomplished, you ask?

Once you have a configurable, secure, multi-tenant service platform in place, you can swiftly and confidently transition new clients onto the platform with standard, optional and customized services. If you have a “master library” with portfolio management functionality, each client can operate as “an experiment in productivity.” The opportunity is to identify, capture, replicate and roll-out productive innovations. Here’s a short blog entry exploring this: Service Providers Accrue Enterprise Value Benefits From all Clients.

One client/department/division/program’s invention can be another’s innovation…if the service items are portable to other instances or versions of the service platform. And, the branding and theming needs to adapt to the new client/user as well. See the blog series on “Service Item Portability“:

Innovation does not have to be daunting. Consider that it can simply be a matter of cloning one service item and registering it for another client/user. Or, you can clone a service item and link it to another process like a specific approval process, integration to an enterprise application like HR or Procurement, access to a Cloud-Based service for provisioning IT resources like computing power or storage, or access to an enterprise service like Active Directory – captured in a reusable handler.

Also, tying back to a configuration-driven approach, you can employ “sense and respond” style innovation with no fear of disrupting the underlying service platform since no programming changes are occurring. Here’s a link to a short blog entry on that topic: Service Provider Innovation, Three Easy Pieces.

In summary, here’s a “formula” to consider: CSMtP(ML/CPM) + ST + CSI = DML

Configurable, Secure, Multi-tenant Platform w/Master Library/Curator Portfolio Management + Streamlined Transitioning + Continual Service Innovation = Differentiated, Market Leadership.

Service Providers—Do the Math on Visible and Hidden Benefits

By Brett Norgaard

The other day, we got some feedback from a large service provider who’s been struggling with their service request management tool for the usual reasons—it is inflexible, dependent upon programming, risky to make changes to the database structure, cumbersome to move from development to production without rework, hard to survive upgrades to the underlying service platform and constantly reinventing the wheel. After experiencing a demonstration of Kinetic Request and Kinetic Task’s configuration driven approach, reusable and cloneable service items and handlers as a starting point for creating new service items, visual work flow, and portability between environments, versions and instances they said something powerful, “This will save us two to three years of development time and will put us that much ahead of schedule.”

Here then is a list of the “visible” business benefits that they saw:

  • Cost savings
  • Time-to-market
  • Using a more readily available and less costly resource (business analyst vs. programmer)

While this is very interesting, think about something else—this represents one client. This service provider has many clients. While each is unique, our experience tells us that there are similar standard service items that could be deployed across the entire client base. Working from a master library, this service provider could also construct an automated method to generate not only a standard service catalog, but specialized service catalogs that command premium pricing based upon their business value to the client. They would also have the money, time, and a satisfied client willing to look at doing more with them.

For simplicity sake, if this service provider had ten clients in the same boat as described above, the cost savings they could point to collectively would be 20-30 years of development time. Now we are talking some serious money as well as some seriously happy clients that can consume the service provider’s offers now vs. two to three years down the road. As author Michael Lewis pointed out in the book, “The New, New Thing” when referring to Jim Jordan (silicon valley guru) and his sales pitch to investors, “Do the math.”

Service providers who have the right knowledge, architecture, tools, and skills in place are poised to accrue “hidden” business benefits as well as the “visible” ones sooner vs. later.

Forrester Research Outsourcing Trends—How Service Providers Can Capitalize

By Brett Norgaard

The other day, I had the chance to listen in on Forrester Research Service Provider Analyst Pascal Matzke’s observations on the outsourcing market. He outlined trends that are leading service providers to change their business models.

Here are the key trends:

  • The traditional outsourcing market has slowed, is not efficient and is very competitive – outsourcers often “build a new factory for every new client.”
  • Consumerization is affecting enterprise IT.
  • Business units are more involved and focused on business results.
  • Cloud computing is driving new dynamics toward re-use and on-demand offerings.

The traditional outsourcing model aimed toward IT operations with a “Plan, Build, Run” model was focused on lowering costs.

There are new models with embedded portfolio management practices emerging:

  • A focus on recurring client needs and scalability
  • Streamlined solutions built with modules—repeatability and re-use
  • Venture Capital mindset to manage the portfolio

The New Model focuses on Executive Management and Lines of Business in the Assessment and Solution phases. IT Operations works closely with Lines of Business in Service Integration. Everything is offered “as a Service” – Infrastructure, Security, Platform, Software, Analytics, and Business Process. IT Operations and Lines of Business work together to orchestrate service delivery. New model is Assess, Compose, and Orchestrate – a more fluid model than the traditional Plan, Build, and Run model.

Business benefits of new model:

  • 25-30% Improvement in Implementation Time
  • Better Project Predictability
  • Cost Savings of up to 15%

Matzke offered up a Portfolio Opportunity Scorecard—a Boston Consulting style two dimensional analysis using Portfolio Maturity and Market Readiness to gauge where to invest in service offerings.

He wrapped up with some advice for service providers to get busy exploring cloud offerings, review existing client relationships, conduct vision planning, get better at competitive intelligence, work on improved leadership, build portfolio management and get good at partnering.

How Kinetic Data enables capitalizing on these trends:

Kinetic Data’s configurable, multi-tenant, secure, web accessible, experience shaping, integration ready applications are particularly well-suited for the move beyond IT into the Lines of Business areas of your clients. Cloning and service item portability make re-use a great option at the design and delivery phases, too. Re-use is a great way to innovate not only within a single client’s portfolio, but across the service provider’s portfolio. Constructing a well thought Master Library of service catalogs and service items, along with a sound methodology for roll-out can dramatically decrease the time to transition to a new service platform. Sense and respond style innovation can let you experiment without risk and then see which innovations clients select. You can also leverage investments in the BMC Remedy ITSM tool set to extend directly to end users via web accessible service catalogs, self service portals and go beyond IT to realize true business value—anytime, anywhere, and on the client’s terms.

Facebook Has Taken Over the World

A Vision from Down Under
By Michael Poole

 

We hear this, even in the antipodes, so often and it may be true, especially for anyone under 40.

Why? Well, obviously it provides a way to communicate with friends and acquaintances; but it’s unlikely it would have been as successful if it had followed the design methods that can be found in too many corporate intranets.

One of Facebook’s major features is “consistency.” Consistent styling; consistent behavior; consistent look-and-feel.

Consistency is paramount to the success of all successful social networking sites. In fact, consistency is such a hallmark of these sites that ANY change to the design makes headlines or at least millions of wall posts!

If Facebook was like most corporate intranets, I doubt if users would have returned again and again.

The “public” internet sites of companies are owned and controlled by the marketing department whose whole purpose is attract visitors and ensure that the site is friendly, usable and informative. They usually follow the same design philosophy that has produced Facebook – consistency and ease of use.

Intranets, on the other hand, are usually owned by IT departments and the content is produced and published by individual departments with differing design (or non-design) skills.

Each department will often have a different set of design parameters and styles. Without a set of design guidelines that stress consistency and ease of use, the intranet can easily look like a “mash-up” – or perhaps a “mess-up” – of isolated intranet sites with jarring and confusing inconsistencies from page to page and area to area.

We have all experienced the corporate intranet that changes themes, banners, fonts for each department area. Intranets that use different layouts, even within department areas – some departments may have text links to some forms, buttons for others; one part of the site may work with IE9 – other parts need will not work with IE7; one might use bold, bright colors, another subdued pastels. The variations can be as many as there are contributors to the intranet site.

Rule one for a successful intranet

The intranet should look and behave in a consistent way. Having an intranet that changes its appearance and behavior between sections disorientates users and can introduce doubts into their minds as to whether or not all sections are as reliable and current as each other.

Of course, I can hear some of my readers saying: “Yes, we tried to do that, we had a theme designed, set standards for user interaction, had a template for all pages. We did all that but then we had to integrate a web-based application into the intranet and it all went bad. We could not change the way that application looked or worked, so we just had to compromise and accept it.”

So, many people, though trying to build in consistency into the intranet, are brought to a crashing halt by having to incorporate inflexible and inconsistent applications.

Why has this happened?

Let’s face it, most corporate applications have been around for some time. Many pre-date the internet and most certainly Web 2.0. They have been developed for dedicated user clients – some were even developed for dumb terminals. And when they produced the “web” version they did try for consistency – but it was consistency with the old, pre-web version. As a result, they produced clones of the old client down to the colors, key-strokes, layout etc.

With this design philosophy – consistency with the past – when they developed “new” functionality, they repeated the design errors of the past. And because in the past they had prescribed the layout, theme and style of the application, they did it again with the new functionality. As a result, application portals came so they fitted in with the parent application and not easily, if at all, styled to be consistent with the intranet they would be integrated into.

If you want a graphic (no pun intended) proof of this, look at the majority of ITSM application vendor’s web offerings – nearly all clones of the dedicated client interfaces of the past.

Should this be the way?

No.

The web is designed to be able to be styled and themed in very powerful ways giving developers the ability to produce interfaces and pages that can be easily integrated into any existing style or theme or to any device.

One way to do this is to use Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) to define the look and feel of an individual web page or a whole site.

This is the strategy that we have embraced when designing not just Kinetic Request forms but the whole Service Request Portal interface. We have empowered our clients to easily integrate both Kinetic Request forms and portals seamlessly into their existing intranets by leveraging the CSS definitions that they use for the rest of the intranet site. The result is CONSISTENCY – consistency of style, functionality and experience, and a reduction of confusion.

By putting the focus on enabling consistency of styling and functionality in the web interface to request management and fulfillment, our users have not had to compromise the consistency of the intranet. The payback is not only better customer satisfaction and better adoption by the users but also a reduction in costs of implementation, user support and training.

It is not the magic bullet – your intranet will never be as popular as Facebook and you will still have to battle to get HR to follow a design guideline – but having the power to enforce consistency is a major step along the way!

A Must-Read for Defining a Service Catalog Item

By Nancy Nafziger

What is service catalog item and how is it fulfilled? For me, there are four basic components included in the delivery of a service catalog item:

1) Service Catalog Item—name or description of a service.

2) User Portal—a self-service portal that provides a list of services that an organization provides to its employees or customers.

3) Workflow—is a delivery plan defining how the request of a service catalog item is fulfilled.

4) Integration—how the service catalog integrates with enterprise applications.

The following article is a must-read, it provides a simple example describing how the basic components, service catalog item, user portal, workflow, and integration all snap together via a configuration process to fulfill a service request. The article details how a task tree and Handlers can be used to map out and accommodate tasks like an approval process or integration with enterprise applications in HR, Procurement or IT. Data within these applications can be used to move the service item through to completion for actions such as ordering a laptop and phone, provisioning network or application access, and registering new assets in IT.

Anatomy of a Service Catalog Item, by Brett Norgaard

When presented with a rather simple-looking service item in a service catalog, what is really behind it? An appropriate analogy may be that of a duck moving swiftly along in a pond barely disturbing the surface, yet underneath the water, the webbed feet are churning away. The same combination of simplicity and strength is required of today’s service catalog items. The demands of self-service, interactivity, integration, ease of use and moving service catalogs beyond IT make it essential to know the make-up of a successful service item.

Service Providers Balance Factory IT by Enabling IT for Service Catalog Success

By Brett Norgaard,

Service Providers can leverage an article in the McKinsey Quarterly, “Reshaping IT Management for Turbulent Times” as you build your case for a configurable, streamlined, re-usable, secure service catalog offering for specific market segments.

The article discusses two models—Factory IT and Enabling IT. And, these two models can work together. An intentional focus where appropriate can allow you to make a business case for each and to differentiate your offerings—here’s how…

First of all, Factory IT is about using configurable products where appropriate (p. 2) atop a standardized platform. This allows you to restructure and continually improve processes. The Master Library (Service Items, Handlers, and Themes/Brands) along with a portfolio management/curator emphasis will allow you efficient re-use of the library across all of your clients. Streamlining key processes like transitioning new clients and the provisioning of tailored service catalogs are two key examples. This configuration strategy also reduces the risk inherent when modifying source code to tailor each client’s experience. The article mentions service catalogs specifically as a way to achieve efficiencies (p. 3).

Next, Enabling IT looks for new sources of value and includes a willingness to test (sense and respond) as well as close collaboration. Again, a configuration-based, low risk strategy affords this type of innovation to occur. This kind of innovation rewards partnership with people who can provide the business requirements based upon specific objectives and market knowledge. Rapid prototyping and iterative development are what happens in Enabling IT (p. 6). Mistakes are encouraged…again, a configuration-based strategy allows for this. With Kinetic Data’s configuration architecture, you can test all you want before registering a service item into the service catalog. Enabling IT supports an organization’s innovation culture—communicate, sense, respond, categorize, test, certify and register service items that can be used across the client base. The Kinetic Task Community is a good starting point to review a set of existing handlers addressing integrations with virtual resources, directories, and enterprise applications.

The article concludes (p. 8) with, “The combination of functional productivity and business value creation, will likely be a major competitive differentiator; the first step in delivering this value is to ensure companies have the right leaders in place for each effort.” A sound architecture, a configuration-based strategy, and an understanding of Factory IT vs. Enabling IT affords service provider leaders with low risk/high reward options for Service Catalog success.